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Flea-borne typhus case indentified in Santa Ana

A cat flea is seen in this file photo. (Photo courtesy of Missouri.edu)

May 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Orange County Vector Control is warning people who live in a Santa Ana neighborhood that a resident has tested positive for flea-borne typhus.

The resident with the confirmed case of typhus was indentified near Broadway and Washington Avenue. Officials are not sure if the person contracted the disease in Santa Ana or another part of Southern California. Nonetheless, schools in that particular Santa Ana neighborhood have been notified.

According to Vector Control, fleas found on animals such as cats, dogs, raccoons and opossums can carry a bacterium which causes typhus in humans. It is not fatal but does require antibiotics. Incidents of typhus are reportedly rare in Southern California.

"There hasn't been an outbreak since 2006 in Southern California, but since then it has increased, there has been, I believe, 42 cases that are on record with vector control, and none in Santa Ana, this is our first confirmed case in the city of Santa Ana," said Cpl. Sondra Berg with the Santa Ana Police Department aninmal services.

Vector Control has set traps, but only one opossum has been caught so far. They are hoping to run tests on feral cats.

"We do visibly have a population of feral cats that live up here, they have been sighted, the schools have complained regarding the cats coming onto the property, so that's our biggest concern right now is protecting the school children," said Berg.

Families are urged to treat their pets with anti-flea medication and should not leave pet food outside where it could attract animals.

Officials say symptoms begin one to two weeks after exposure and include high fever, headaches, chills, body aches and pains, a rash on the chest and arms and or legs.

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